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tv   CNN On The Frontlines  CNN  December 26, 2011 5:00am-6:00am EST

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>p welcome to our spec recorp record, crecord, cnn whipwhich is righrwhich is reportreporter wants to be, whs happeninhappening, when it's h when it really kounds. whwhen ip when it comes tot it has been a busy year for us, the world. a year that mattered for millions. they saw their faith in science rocked by a nuclear catastrophe. elsewhere millions rose up against dictators. they watched friends and neighbors dye in the streets but then tasted freedom. you'll experience all of that in the hour ahead through the eyes and the minds from my colleagues from cnn international who were there when it happened right from the start.
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january 2011, the first rumblings of an up rising in cairo. crowds begin to gather in the city's central tahrir square. a revolution has begun. >> what is your message to president mubarak? >> reporter: whose hosni mubarak has been egypt's dictate for for 30 years. a growing number of protesters want him out. mubarak digs in and the once peaceful protests turn violent. >> reporter: this is an unmistakable show of military force. this has been a symbol of de defian defiance. >> reporter: they're speaking in arabic, go, go.
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>> reporter: firefighting in the air. the demonstrators say that's the army firing to warn them to stay away. >> reporter: promubarak forces targeted the unarmed protesters. journalists come under attack. >> i was shoved out of the way. this is just a completely surreal experience. i'm being told, walk, walk. don't stay. okay. >> been hit now like ten times. the egyptian soldiers are -- >> reporter: we'd like to be showing you instead of this picture, we would like to be showing you live pictures of what's happening in liberation square right now. we can't do that because our cameras have systematically been taken down through threats, through intimidation, through
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actual physical attacks. >> reporter: 18 days of clashes end with mubarak stepping down from power. just one country away, another revolution begins in libya. >> reporter: we are the first television crew to get to this city. we were just overwhelmed by the welcome here. people were throwing candy inside the car, clapping, shaking our hands telling us, you're welcome. thank you for coming here. an incredible experience. >> reporter: the up rising against gadhafi turns into a seven-month war. in the capitol government minders try to force feed journalists a message of total gadhafi control. >>. >> reporter: this is really what the libyan government wants to get out, this message, that here in the capitol, tripoli, support for moammar gadhafi is strong, support for his government is strong. >> reporter: nato begins its campaign to protect libyan
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civilians. the battle on the ground intensifies. >> reporter: this is proving to be a much tougher battle than anyone had anticipated. this city, key territory, should the pro-gadhafi elements be able to push in here. the concern is this could potentially turn into a bloodbath. >> reporter: we're leaving this area because there's gunfire all around us and we believe that gadhafi's forces are doing a roundabout movement. we are rushing out of this area. >> reporter: guys, alec. >> reporter: going as fast as we can. >> reporter: as the fight draws closer to tripoli, gadhafi loyalists trap journalists inside the hotel. >> reporter: in the last few seconds really or last few minutes we've learned security
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that has been so prevalent around this hotel has all of a sudden decided to leave. essentially the government minders who were armed with rifles and things like that have departed the hotel now and it's pretty empty in the lobby apart from a few security staff. rather, a few hotel staff. apart from that, it's completely empty, which makes it a very kind of uncertain time. >> reporter: tripoli begins to fall and the journalists are free. days later opposition fighters storm gadhafi's compound. >> reporter: over here you're seeing these are cars that belong to the gadhafi regime. they are blowing up rounds on top of them. that is a low security area. i'm going to try not to get hit by any of those rounds. >> reporter: gadhafi is later found and killed. in 2011 the world also watches a natural disaster unfold on live
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tv. the most powerful earthquake to hit japan causes a massive tsunami. widespread destruction. this feels like it's the ground, but this isn't actually the ground. we're probably about ten feet up off where the actual ground is. there's just so much debris piled on. there's actually an entire van beneath me. >> reporter: more than 15,000 people are killed. >> reporter: when the earthquake happened students at the elementary school evacuated out of the school. they had no idea a tsunami was coming. out of 108 students at school that day, 77 are either dead or missing. that's 70% of the children at the school. >> reporter: the quake also causes a nuclear emergency after flood waters damage some of the country's largest nuclear reactors. the radiation leak forces the evacuation of more than 200,000 people. only animals are left behind. journalists retreat from tokyo
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but still report. >> if you find yourself in an area where there's too much radiation it will alarm. >> reporter: nuclear concerns linger today as they rebuild. another story where journalists and the world watched history as it happened. there are different kinds of seismic events, of course. some begin when the earth shakes others when people won't be moved. it's the second that is happening all around the world. it happened in egypt. we asked our reporters to spend a few minutes to tell us what they remembered most covering these stories. ben wedeman was in egypt at the outset of the revolution. >> reporter: 2011 has been a year of unrelenting news, but here in cairo the billingest news came on the 25th of january when we were told there would be yet another demonstration against hosni mubarak. we attended one and it went to tahrir square, but it was relatively small. we headed back to the office. i started actually to write a script about that modest demonstration, and then i got a
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phone call that there was tear gas being fired in tahrir square. we went down to the street, jumped in a taxi, started to go there. we went over or rather under what's known as the 6 october bridge and just by chance i looked behind me and i saw thousands and thousands of students coming down the bridge shouting, down, down with the regime, and heading to tahrir square. when i saw that, i realized this regime is going down. >> reporter: ben we had err man joins me now. what was it about what was happening on that bridge that made you realize, okay, this is really it? >> it was the sheer number of people. i've seen demonstrations for years in cairo against mubarak, against many others, but it was always a handful, maybe 100, maybe 200. the bridge was full. we're talking thousands and thousands of people. and i think what became apparent that day was that the regime was
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outnumbered by the people. i think that realization spread so quickly that three days later basically the regime gave up and handed over the country to the army. >> people died on that bridge. you were beat up. you were pushed around a little bit near that bridge, weren't you? >> that was on the 28th. actually, in cairo you get shoved around quite a lot by the security forces. >> why don't you be more specific about which day. >> yeah. on the 28th we were filming and this was clearly the day when it was all going to come down and sort of with finality. we were with tommy evans, mary r rogers. we were surrounded by plain clothed policemen and hired thugs. they looked like they were under the influence of some sort of narcotics. they were insisting on taking away the camera. i said, no, because we had great footage of some incredible scenes, and what ensued was a
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very long pushing and shoving match in which eventually they just cracked the camera. the view finder right off. they took it away. i went back to argue with the superior officer, the commanding officer. >> you're fluent in arabic. >> yes. i was using words that i wouldn't use in polite company. i argued with this guy for quite some time, but we lost. we lost our camera, lost the footage. got a bit roughed up, but it got me going. i was angry. >> right. i remember that. i got there days later. for all of us, for me, that was probably the most remarkable reporting experience, just to witness it, to be there. what about for you guys? you, ivan, were trapped in tahrir square in kind of a rundown hotel during some of the worst of the violence. we were all very worried about you. we were on the other side near the pro-mubarak forces. >> that was the famous day of the battle of the camel where we all saw scenes i thought we'd
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never see before. first this rock fight breaks out. i think you got attacked on that day. we were all getting pushed and shoved around. we were caught, my cameraman and i were caught in the middle of this horrendous rock fight between two sides. basically we ran to the commando run. our hotel, this flea hotel. the door was chained shut. we managed to skbeez in, got to the roof and suddenly these camels started charging into the square beating up the demonstrators. then the riders were ripped off. we were stuck in that hotel in tar rir square as it was encircled by the thugs. we didn't know if we'd get out that night. >> the fear was that they would come into the hotel. there was nothing to stop them if they had that area. >> we didn't think the demonstrators could hold out against the regime, and they did, for days. they won in the end. >> what i find fascinating is the battle of the camels was
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seen from so many different perspectives. you were from up top. i was right there when the camels came in. i was trying to sort of badly take blackberry pictures. it just symbolized the historical nature of what was happening. all of a sudden this epic, bizarre, surreal camel charge in tahrir square. >> that was the moment when many egyptians realized that the regime was bankrupt. just had no idea how to deal with it other than to pay a bunch of camel drivers to try to put down the revolt. >> when you refer to the camel drivers, it's over at that point when you resort to them. it's interesting, because of technology and because of the resources, frankly, of cnn, you're able to be in the midst of stories in a way and broadcast live during them in a way we've never been able to do before. we saw that whether you being in tahrir square broadcasting live. i remember being on the balcony with you of the hotel
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overlooking it and getting laser sighted by people in the area around where the thugs were. we didn't know if it's a laser sight of a rifle, what was going on. >> we were surrounded, our hotel. we were under siege. you could not leave the hotel without getting beaten up. we nicknamed it sarcastically the beat a journalist day. so many people were getting smacked around. there was something raw and visceral about people who were pro-mubarak, hating us. >> we want to continue the conversation about egypt. also what's happening in egypt right now. we'll also look at what happens after a dictator falls, the struggles with the military and now elections. here's ivan watson. >> reporter: this year tahrir square has been the scene of incredible drama. sensational images of the famous battle of the camel. people fighting each other with clubs and sticks making weapons and shields out of the most
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basic tools, but it has also become a symbol, tahrir square behind me, of a struggle for freedom, a struggle for dignity in the arab world. first in january and february as egyptians gathered and said no to the dictatorial regime of hosni mubarak and then once again nine, ten months later in november as they gathered again and said no to the ruling military council here. so tahrir square has become a symbol of this struggle for dignity in the arab world, and i predict we'll see more drama here again as egyptians continue to see this square as a sign and a symbol of their struggle for freedom. get the technology they love, on the network they deserve. and video chat with up to 9 of your friends with the galaxy nexus by samsung,
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i was able to witness firsthand the birth of something that i thought i'd never see in the middle east. protesters demanding accountability from their leaders. i never thought in the years i spent covering the middle east and in the time i've spent going back and forth to the middle east, my family is from syria, i never thought that i'd see a dictator taken down by the power of street protests. in egypt it's freer. the press can travel to cairo and report. i've come to love that country and the people in egypt, i truly have, over the several years i've spent reporting from there. so it's almost -- i almost --
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it's almost like wishing family well when you know a country intimately in the way like i feel like i've grown to know egypt. >> the transformation in egypt. i spent time there in the height of the uprising but they had a chance to see every chapter before and since. we're back now. you live in cairo. your family was there so at the same time that all of this was happening, you're also concerned about your family and their well-being. >> no, i was completely split, ripped in two because on the one hand i wanted to cover the revolution. on the other, my neighborhood became an armed camp. my neighbors put barricades, barriers on the roads. they pulled out weapons i didn't know they had, shotguns, machine guns, samurai spgs swords and even my 17-year-old son was out there every night with a baseball bat and our german shepherd joining the patrol because we live in a very nice neighborhood surrounded by slums
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next to egypt's largest prison. >> i'll never forget broadcasting with you. we had snuck to the bureau. moments before we went on the air you saw or the security guys saw some people coming up through the back alley. the bureau's completely open. anybody can get into the building. that's when we decided to turn off all the lights, get down on the floor and actually -- the security guy suddenly jammed the couch in front of the door. i was like, that's our high tech security? are you kidding me? jammed the couch in front of the door. we continued on. that was one of the intense moments. >> surreal. >> absolutely surreal. you've all reported in this region. did you ever expect to be seeing the things that you are now seeing. >> never. >> no. >> absolutely not. not across the whole of north africa the way we're seeing it change. this is only the beginning. we're looking forward to next year. the revolutions happened, but as we all know what happens after
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revolutions, the countries go through convulsions and contortions and several governments may come over the next few years. syria is an event in a way we're still waiting for it to happen that. will happen. >> syria is going to be huge. >> to be sort of watching the middle east completely and utterly change, no. who would imagine that sitting here. >> you had come out with reports saying they believe there's already civil war. you were there. i want to show what arwa had to say about her experience there. >> reporter: i was hiding in the back of a white van with two activists who were absolutely terrified, i never met them before in my entire life. they were taking me through the da mass cass suburbs to link up with a young doctor who it had set up a secret public clinic. they were trying to save wounded demonstrators' lives. they were taking this incredible risk because they wanted us to see some of their patients, people who had gunshot wounds that weren't able to go to
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hospitals, a young boy, a teenager, the doctor didn't have the medical equipment to be able to fully understand the scope of his injuries and so he said, this little boy was partially paralyzed from the waist down. the doctor was a young man. he said it was so difficult for him to have people die in his hands because he quite simply couldn't save them. >> for months the syrian government has been lying publicly. their ambassadors hearsay journalists are free to travel wherever you want. you can talk to whomever you want. what was your experience. >> you're free to travel as long as you take a government minder with you who's not called a government minder, he's called a facilitator. he's not there to prevent you from reporting, he's there to help you out. >> protect you against those elements who might want to do you harm. that was the narrative the whole time we were in syria. we're not keeping you from traveling around the country because we want to hide things from you.
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we want to protect you. >> it was still better to be there with those restrict thans than not be there. we were able to in the end get the stories, get away. >> the street talks to you. >> what do you mean the street whispers to you. >> they'll slide pieces of paper into your hand. >> we connected with some of the activists. they would slide very -- in this age of twitter, facebook and everything, the most old-fashioned way of communicating is how i got the best contact in syria, which was a young man, an engineering student who i'm still in touch with with a fake e-mail account to make sure he's okay, this tiny little piece of paper and put it in my hand and said, they're lying to you. call me. it was amazing how they get around the controls. >> when you think about the risk that they're taking. they could die so easily or be tortured. things that we can't even imagine. we hear some of the stories coming out of syria. they are so terrifying. it makes your skin crawl. these people are taking this
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risk all the time. we'd be there surrounded by government minders, someone would walk by and say, they're lying. >> do you get used to seeing the bravery of people coming forward? do you get used to seeing people killed in the streets for speaking out. >> no. never. >> there's people, the bravery that we've seen, it makes you want to weep sometimes to see these people that come out. they're at a funeral of their friend who was killed and then the security forces start shooting at the funeral procession. they still keep chanting, you know, democracy, down with the regime when being fired on that way. >> even now on my show i talk to people in syria on the phone who insist on using their real names. they insist on it because they say they're no longer afraid and they want the government to know they're not afraid no matter what is going to happen to them. >> that's the biggest unifying factor i've found through the whole region, people saying we lost our fear. tlurp at the beginning and it started there. it rolled across. when people say they've lost their fear, that's when
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government should worry. >> we're going to have much more ahead with our correspondents. for libya 2011 also brought incredible change there. opposition forces took on moammar gadhafi's military. they ultimately won. david and goliath story if ever there was one. matthew became a prisoner along with other journalists in this hotel. >> we've been living in fear for the past five days because we've been really being held against our will by these crazy gunmen. >> also ahead the triple disaster that left more than 15,000 people dead in japan. a monster tsunami, the nuclear crisis it set off. [ dad ] nobody's playing anything until after we get our homework done. thank you. hello? test drive's not over yet. [ male announcer ] it's practically yours. [ louder ] hello? but we still need your signature. right now during sign then drive, it's never been easier to get the all-new passat, the 2012 motor trend car of the year, for practically just your signature. that's the power of german engineering.
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in february the unrests sweeping egypt and two nearby yeah had reached libya. they demanded an end to moammar
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gadhafi's rule. his army met them with force. bloodbath had gun and wouldn't end for eight more months. the opposition would gain a foothold and make a major advance throughout the country with the help of nato. he was one of the first reporters there in the early days of the uprising. >> reporter: when we were going into tripoli the end of february, we had no idea what to expect. an amazing thing happened on our first day there. the government drivers and minders took us to zawire where the rebels had control of the center of the city. the government drivers just dropped us off and let us go where we wanted. we walked down the road where we could see a crowd of people gathered around a tank. we thought this was the government showing us pro-gadhafi reporters. as i climbed on the tank i realized these were rebels, that the government minders had delivered us to the rebel side. i started thinking, okay,
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there's going to be a gun battle. we had been brought in to film it, witness it. that wasn't the case. the government had made a mistake. right after that, they changed. the security kind of took over from the government officials who were running the press side. within days whenever we left the hotel without minders, we were being rounded up sometimes by gun point and taken back to the hotel. the first few days we had a tiny bit of freedom and then the government clamped down with us. >> we're joined again by our panel. nick, what was it like in tripoli in those early days? >> that was the time when we had almost the most freedom. they brought us in. the intelligence got ahold of the idea that we were renegades because we were heading off to parts of the city they didn't want us to. we were being arrested and dragged back to the hotel. then they clamped down on us. the access dried up. >> ben, you were the first western journalist to enter through the east of libya in
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opposition-held territory making it into ben gaz zi. i'll never forget that video. it was like the allies entering paris in world war ii. extraordinary jubilation. >> our first 48 hours in libya was really nerve wraking because everybody you would meet and speak to was just full of this energy that had been pent up, frustration, anger. it was suddenly coming out. they were happy to see you, but they were so excited that finally they were free. you couldn't have a conversation. people were shouting. i thought, oh, my god, if i stay here much longer i'll die of a heart attack. it was thrilling in a different way from egypt. >> during the final fall of tripoli. >> matt: through and sarah, i think everybody was riveted to both of you. matthew, you were trapped in this hotel. i want to show some of what you had to say about it.
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>> reporter: it was a pivotal moment of the past 12 months for me was the situation i got myself into or found myself in in the hotel in tripoli. we weren't really permitted to go outside except under these very controlled circumstances so you got a very distorted perspective on the entire complex. afterwards it was amazing because i was personally very relieved, as were all the other journalists that were held inside. i went out of the hotel within a few minutes i went to the live location at cnn in the center of tripoli. i was surrounded by these crowds of people who had come out into the center of tripoli. they were celebrating the liberation of their country. they were firing guns in the air. they were giving me flowers. it was an amazing electricity about the place. they were on the verge of a new era in their country. they were finally free. i felt part of that as well. i was also free after a period of being incarcerated.
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so it was an amazing moment. >> it's rare often reporters end up talking about things that have already happened, reporting on things that have already occurred. you're trying to make the story in the past, but that was a story that was unfolding, you were trapped in the middle of it. what is that like? >> highly unusual to be actually the story yourself. that's what we found ourselves being. it was also remarkable because we found that this small little transformation that took place in our hotel where everybody was so hard line, so pro-colonel gadhafi. the gunmen were so loyal to him. over the period of days as they went by as the sort of rebellion gathered pace and the rebels gained ground across the rest of the country, this transition took hold. the gunmen inside the hotel started to realize that the world outside the gates of the hotel, their country had changed beyond recognition. when they finally made that realization, the whole thing fell apart. they basically abandoned their
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post. some of them got killed outside. >> what is that like negotiating though with gunmen. it's an experience i think everybody on the stage has had. until you've had it, it's sort of hard to describe. twhas like? >> actually, the negotiations were carried out by the producer i was working with. she speaks arabic, obviously. they were the end result of what were days upon days, hours upon hours of just everybody together thinking how we were going to get out of. this our big concern was this was going to be the last stand of gadhafi's loyalists in the hotel where we were stuck. we were going to get caught up in that. that was our worst-case scenario. we were kind of constantly assess whag our risk was, wondering, decide whag our next step was going to be. then we'd present that in the form of a negotiation through her and others to the guards. obviously we had no idea right up until the last minute or two, last five minutes maybe, that
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this was going to produce results. they finally understood that holding us captive was a dead-end game for them. when that happened, there was a huge emotional release. i cried. they gave us their weapons. we took some of them with us in the evacuation because if we had left them there, they would have been killed. >> a lot more about libya ahead. the nation that's ending 2011 without the man that terrorized its people for decades. our correspondents share more what they saw on the ground. also ahead a disaster that claimed more than 15,000 lives in japan. it raised questions about the safety of a nuclear power plant. i put myself through nursing school, and then i decided to go get a doctorate degree. university of phoenix gave me the knowledge to make a difference in people's lives. my name is dr. kimberly horton. i manage a network of over a thousand nurses, and i am a phoenix.
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we made it to a neighborhood that was right next to the compound, the gadhafi's strong hold, and there was, you know, dozens and dozens of men holding
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their guns, celebrating saying, you know, it's close. it's about to be over. we're going to take this compound. we're going to kick, you know, the ka gaff if i regime out of tripoli. we're going to crutch the regime that's been so crutshing to our families for 40 years. it was exhilarating. it was one of those days where you're like, wow. this is history being made right here. i'm standing right here, august 23rd, and tripoli's falling around me. >> sarah on the falling of libya's largest city. around the arab world cities of discontent. the unrest that rippled and is still rippling across the region is extraordinary. sarah and the rest of our panel is back. being there, was that the most
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intense experience that you had found yourself in? because you were reporting live throughout it all. >> it was. the second most was the mumbai attacks. there was a barrier, so to speak. the walls of the hotel. there wasn't a barrier here. i mean, you were trying to decide on a minute-by-minute basis whether or not you and your crew were safe and whatever that meant in this scenario and as people started going into this compound, we couldn't obviously see with our own eyes. we were just necks door but we could hear, and the moment we saw them open up some of these files and the names on the files, the children of gadhafi, where could they have gotten those? they were all saying from inside, inside, we're swimming in the pools. we're swimming in the pools. that was a fascination. everyone was so happy to be swimming in the pools. we thought, okay. they're in. it seems they're in. so it was a scenario where we went a little bit forward trying
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to decide. finally we got to the walls of the outside of the compound. they were littered with bullets, holes, mortars. it looked like armagedin. the guys standing outside, they said, who, who, who? we said, cnn. they let us walk right in. everyone was rushing in and then rushing out. i kept thinking, what the hell is going on? are people being shot at inside the compound still? or are people just excited, they're kind of going back and forth. what was going on is people were bringing guns out. they were bringing anything they could get their hands on out and telling us the tea is still hot. there are still people in there fighting. there are uniforms. you could see shoes. you could see all sorts of things. people had gotten up and gotten the hell out of there to be honest. >> it is a great moment when you're there somewhere and you can say cnn, they say, oh, yes, okay. it's always nice. >> sometimes the door just
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closes. >> there's that. that's true. nick, you were in the hotel that extraordinary when eva came in screaming she had been raped by gadhafi's forces. >> the government officials, the minders who had been escorting us to the different places around tripoli suddenly were pulling guns out of trouser belts and literally took our cam are and intentionally broke it in pieces and threw it on the floor. >> one of the waitresses -- >> threw a bag or sheet over her head and then these government thugs just took her away. the journalists are trying to stop them taking her away from the hotel. >> where are you going with her? it was the brutality that the regime said wasn't happening unfolding in front of our very eyes by the guys who were pretending to be something zblels for you, what is a good day in the field? what is a day that makes you
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feel, you know what, this was a good day? we're doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing? >> when you feel like you actually do have this fundamental sense of purpose and you're feeling these human emotions. especially with everything that's happening in the middle east right now, i don't think despite the fact that we've been covering it we actually understand what it means for the people that are going through all of this, what it means for libyans that have been through so much under gadhafi to finally not have that anymore. egypt, all of these other places. they go through things that we can't even imagine. it's our worst nightmares and they're living it. >> we're a window for our audience. as big as we can open that window and show them what's happening, it's a great feeling when you open that window and you know that you can show some of that story to the world. what is an amazing feeling is when you feel on those huge stories that the world actually cares when it's looking in through that window. then you feel like you've done your job. >> sometimes you feel like
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you're talking into a wind tunnel. you're tlg the stories and it doesn't have any impact. when you feel that impact -- >> when the world cares and you know that the world cares and you know they're watching. those are the moments that get me the most. i think when we slow down to reflect on the year, when you reflect now, it's reminding us, talking about it, it's powerful to watch it. >> humbling. >> i think what a lot of people don't realize is we don't actually see a lot of the reports. when you're overseas, filing this, have you to go out to another demonstration, you don't end up seeing a lot of this stuff. it was interesting watching you. >> the first one we've seen all year. >> we were all so much younger at the beginning. >> we have much more ahead. the other big story of 2011. japan's biggest tsunami. more than 15,000 lives lost.
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will be giving away passafree copies of the alcoholism & addiction cure. to get yours, go to continuing our look at the biggest stories of 2011 from our correspondents who covered the stories firsthand, i want to turn to the japan earthquake and tsunami that happened on march 3rd. no one can forget how it destroyed it in minutes. seems like this played out on the coast of northeast japan. explosions at the nuclear power plant. officials put the damage on par with a 1986 childrernobyl in ru.
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the 9.0 earthquake hit the island nation. >> reporter: if there is one story that will always be memorable to me from this year, it's covering the tsunami in japan. not those massive scenes of devastation, it's when i sat down with a young mother who was going over how many family members she had lost. she started counting on her hand, and she ran out and she had to keep counting. she lost seven immediate family members, and among them her 8-year-old son. that's when it really struck home to me that this story was not about all the structures that were lost, it was about the lives of loved ones and these victims who would forever be impacted by it. >> more than 15,000 people were killed in the disaster. our panel is back.
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it was so extraordinary to be there. i had the pleasure of working with you a little bit. to be there not just for an earthquake and then a tsunami, but also this radiation fear and disaster that was occurring. what worried you the most? what was the most difficult part of the story? >> you can't see it. unlike the conflicts that we've seen around the world, you can't tell if the nuclear radiation is hitting your body. you don't know. so that was the most alarming thing is that we simply didn't know. >> you were 11 weeks pregnant at the time. >> yeah, i was pregnant at the time. my 2-year-old was also at home with my husband. we had earthquake damage in our apartment. so there was a lot of personal things going on. but that was a big concern. how close can we get? how much should we push personal safety in order to get the story, this incredible story, which we all want to cover. and there was very little information coming from the government.
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>> in fact, incorrect information. >> incorrect information, and we now know that they drug their feet and did not tell the international community all the information that they had. >> everybody on this platform has covered natural disasters. what is the difference between covering -- i mean emotionally covering a natural disaster from covering a war? is it a different reporting experience for you all? >> i found one earthquake i went to in india, you're very much -- you become in the scenes of utter devastation, you're trying to cover the story but you're so much involved in it because you don't have anywhere to sleep. you're not sure where you're going to get your electricity from. you don't know where your food's going to come from because everything has collapsed. it's all on the ground lying around you. >> you talk about electricity. for us the keys when reporting on a disaster are basically gasoline so we can run a generator for electricity to broadcast. that is the number one priority. then finding a place to sleep
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and finding something to drink. >> it's a leveller. >> this is the thing. one of the big obstacles of being in a natural disaster zone like an earthquake or tsunami is you really are -- the infrastructure has been so devastated usually that you are in exactly the same boat as everybody else in the area. >> it is terrifying dealing with a radiation disaster because you don't have a sense of where is okay to go and there's not a lot of expertise to be relied on. you suddenly find yourself making these choices like, okay, i think this place is okay, but we really have no idea. those are the choices that civilians are making every minute. >> the japanese are so calm. i think the biggest difference that i see in listening to all of you talking, looking at the video. we went interest a story that was so filled with emotion and picture to a story that was exact 180 emotional opposite. the japanese are very kwi et. >> the thing that impresses me about all of you, i've worked
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with all of you and i've seen you in the field, you meet some correspondents in the field who swagger around as if they're this hard bin news man, seen it all, nothing at all, nothing affects them. i think they have no bisque in the field in those places because i think unless you are affected by it, unless you view it as a human being and reporter, you don't do as effective of a job. i've seen each of you in the field really be moved and overwhelm at times by the things that you have witnessed. how do you deal with that? how do you come back from that and then go back out again? >> it's the -- the worst is the feeling of helplessness if you're watching some child die, some family that have lost their home or whatever. you can try to be apathetic. can you try to explain their story to the world, but there's little you can do. you can give them a bottle of water. you can give them a granola bar,
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people in the worst situations. >> you can feel their suffering but you can't take their suffering away from them. i think that hurts. >> how do you deal with seeing the stuff time and time again? >> i feel beaten up after some of these assignments. this year with all the euphoria of the arab spring has also been, i think for all of us, personally exhausting. nic made a joke we all look older than we did a year ago. i think everybody feels that way. >> do you feel you carry the people you have met with you? >> sometimes. i've experienced on several occasions i will sit on the plane on the way home, the first time when you can actually stop, when you're not focusing on working, the next story, you're going to disconnect, disengage. the tears will roll down my face. i can't stop it. i don't want to stop it because that's part of the release. i'm lucky when i go home, i walk in the front door and i'm dad. i've got two girls and a lovely wife. i get on with that. i like running and that dissipates some of it. why do we go out again? because ultimately we believe it does make a difference. >> you've all had those moments?
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>> yeah. >> you have them after. i have them after. if you have them during, you can't do your job. >> that's very true. >> you start crumbling. it's sort of usually -- it'll come a few days later or few weeks later. i've seen a youtube video of someone shot in the head and dragged to safety in syria or somewhere else. in my mind i'll think, god help that country. i hope these people are okay. >> i find it life affirming, i have to say. there's so many dead people. you see the fragility of life. in this natural disaster there were 8,000 bodies on the beach when i arrived. it just makes you appreciate your life. that's how i deal with it. i sort of kickback after a terrible story like that and think, well, they're gone. that could so easily have been me. it wasn't. i've got my life still. >> you asked about a difference between conflict and the natural
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disasters. i think on an emotional level when there's a conflict, there's somebody that you can be angry at. there's a guy with a gun who's hurting innocent people. there's some tyrannical figure like moammar gadhafi who you can blame for all of this, but when it's that natural disaster, it's that finger of god that destroys a city and there's nobody you can blame. it's a strange -- once again, it's the feeling of helplessness that you can't really comfort those people. >> i don't know what to say. how many people did i talk to who lost every single member of their family? i talked to so many parents who lost all their children. so what do you say to them? the only thing we can do as journalists is to tell their story. >> you know what keeps us going, going back to the places later, finding the people when they're
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out of the conflict zone or danger zone, they've started rebuilding, they're scarred but they're intact and they're moving on with their life. >> they're carrying on. at the time it feels term, and then you see their resilience. >> come back a year later or two years later. >> that's one of the extraordinary things about cnn, not only are we the first ones there, the last ones to leave. we're the first ones to go back and will return more than anybody else. i think that's great credit to the organization. we have to take a quick break. we'll be right back. vegas baby! maybe we should head back to the dealership first? vegas! no, this is a test drive. vegas! [ male announcer ] it's practically yours. but we still need your signature. volkswagen sign then drive is back. and it's never been easier to get a jetta. that's the power of german engineering. get zero first month's payment, zero down, zero security deposit and zero due at signing on any new volkswagen. visit
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